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How you can help yourself

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Taking control

Decide what you want and identify your goal:

  • better control of your working hours
  • alternative or flexible working arrangements 
  • extended unpaid leave or a sabbatical.

Regain control

There may be some improvements you can make by yourself, or with others, by raising issues and discussing options with your line manager, for example flexible working arrangements.

Working parents and carers have a legal right to request part-time or flexible working which is set out in Prospect Members' Guide 16. The guide also explains how part-time workers are protected by law from less favourable treatment and discrimination.

But good employers are making these options more widely available because of the business benefits and need for agility and innovation in a recession.

We suggest you start with our self-help tips. However, if you've exhausted your own efforts and need your manager's help, you will want to know the options and your rights so that you approach your line manager prepared and informed.

We therefore have set out alternative ways of working for you to explore and tips to help you discuss options withyour line manager. Remember, flexibility needs to work both ways – for you and your employer.

Talk privately with your Prospect rep – they can provide confidential advice and won't do anything you are not comfortable with. A different perspective from an experience and trained rep might help give you some new options or insights. If there are common issues across a team or unit there may be an opportunity to take things up collectively. More voices make a stronger case.

The range of flexible working options will vary by employer – if you need to know more about the options in your workplace contact your branch in the first instance. For example, time off in lieu (TOIL) may be available in some employers whereas overtime may be payable in other areas.

Self-help tips – try to regain your own control

  • If you're consistently working through lunch, try and stop and take a break. Set up a reminder or book yourself a break in your electronic diary if necessary. Breaks provide a chance to rest, recoup and refresh so you look after yourself and start getting back in control.
  • If you're always working late, try to get this under control. You could start by finishing on time at least once a week and build up. Add social appointments to your electronic diary if necessary – it's easier if you have to leave for an appointment so put arrangements outside work in your diary.
  • Switch off your work phone, BlackBerry or email at the end of the work day – creating clear boundaries between work and home can help.
  • Could you cut out some wasted travelling time by working at home from time to time?
  • Click here for more ideas on simple changes

Flexible working and flexitime agreements

Whether there are formal arrangements for flexitime schemes, ad hoc arrangements for flexible working hours or short-term arrangements, it is important that agreements are properly negotiated between the management and the union(s).

Time off in lieu – your flexible work time account

Many managers and professionals are covered by time off in lieu arrangements (TOIL). TOIL can work well for employers and employees giving employers resource in the peak times while allowing people to manage their own attendance and take time off when it works for them.